Old Lombard Cheese Designations – Ruminantia – Web Magazine on the World of Ruminants

Cheeses with ancient names

Stracchino, crescenza, robiola, maschpone and giuncata are names for Lombard cheeses that have reached from ancient times today, where for many they have lost their original meaning, but not for linguists who through the study of ancient texts have managed to identify the religious communities. origin. Important are the studies of Angelo Stella “Poor cerne” in Lombardy, published in Linguistics in the kitchen. The names of the typical dishes (Dizioni Unicopli, Milano 2005) and Archetti, G., Baronio, A. (eds.), Milk civilization. Sources, symbols and products from late antiquity to the twentieth century – Brescia Civilization Foundation, Brescia, 2011.


In the Lombard food culture, the primary contrast is between hard cheese to be “scratched” and “stracchino”, the soft, casual cheese, in its varieties. Stracchino (strachín in Lombard language) owes its name to Lombard strachderived from the langobard tight, with the meaning of tired. It is a soft, raw and short-aged cheese made with whole milk and which looks like a fat and soft cheese, where a thick, thin and tender crust (skin) turns into a hard one after a few weeks of storage. In this case, Crescenza, Robiola, Taleggio and lo are forms of Stracchino Strachitunt, Gorgonzola and Salva cremasco. The prevailing etymology of the name refers to the use of milk from tired cows to the transition from summer grass to valley floor after summer grass and at the end of a long lactation. Aries strache when these cows, during their journey, stop in the farms at the bottom of the valley and on the first Lombard plain, they produce a little milk, with which the cheese called stracchino is made. Less convincing is the etymology according to which the name stracchino is derived from straccare, i.e. to lose the whey from the milk, therefore stracchino would indicate a cheese made with milk drained from the whey. The version according to which the origin of the term stracchino would be in the use of milk from cows fed in winter with grass from meadows, and therefore malnourished, is questionable, if not imaginative. The milk thus obtained, poor in content, would have given a tired or cheese strach hence the name stracchino.


The Crescenza originates from the Po Valley and especially from the area south of Milan, a typical area for processing soft cheeses. It is a special stracchino of the very fresh type with a maturation of a few days, without maturation of the twenty, sixty days with ordinary stracchini. It is skinless, creamy and spreadable and is sometimes partially skimmed milk. The etymology of the term crescenza is made to originate from Latin crescentto grow up, or from the Milanese dialect karst which means focaccia and this for the special property of this cheese, which, if stored in a hot environment, ferments and swells, breaks just as bread does during rising.


Robiola is a soft Italian cheese, usually short-aged, today produced in various areas of northern Italy, including the Langhe, Bresciano and Valsassina, and can be made from cow, goat, pecorino and mixed milk. According to some, the robiola would take its name from Robbio, an Italian town in the province of Pavia, where this cheese was made as early as the 16th century, according to others from rubrum for coloring the rind and according to others from madder, a plant from which a red pigment is obtained, reminiscent of the outer color of the cheese. Robiola is already mentioned in Pantaleone da Confienzas Summa Lacticiniorum (1477), an encyclopedia of late medieval European cheeses and the oldest organic and systematic treatment of milk and derivatives, after Caio Plinio Secondo or Plinio il Vecchio (??? – 79 AD. ). In the third chapter and with the same title The case of La Mora It is told: “Isti casei appellantur robiole et sunt parvi casei unius libre vel circa, rotundi et satis spissi respectu sue molis, mundi in cortice, transpares vel translucentes (…) Fit etiam de ipsis satis bona copia in Lomelina et Sunt boni maxime in Palestro et Conflantia , nec mirum Cum etiam ibi omnia terre nascentia bona sint.“Robiola also has the variant mbiola, and the location in Lomellina, between Palestro and Confienza, on the threshold of Monferrato, seems to confirm the etymological link between mbio / a and Robbio, a neighboring town. However, robiola is more likely to originate rubeola which does not mean as much reddish, as yellowish or blond, the color of ripe cheese made with sheep’s milk. Even today in the Vercelli dialect word rübi defines a color that tends to blond with reference to a mature product.

Mascarpone (mascarpone)

Mascarpone is a dairy product that is typical of some areas of Lombardy, especially the Lodi area, and is currently produced by processing cream and citric acid. Traditionally, mascarpone was produced only in the cold season and at a craft level, and coagulation was triggered by the addition of vinegar or lemon juice. It resembles a soft cream of white or light yellow color, characterized by a consistency similar to that of ice cream, with a delicate taste and references to the slightly sour aroma of cream and fresh milk. Mascarpone has recently contributed to the popularity of tiramisu. There is uncertainty about the exact origin of this cheese, but its production and consumption certainly go back several centuries ago. According to journalist Gianni Brera, the product’s name should rather be Mascherpa and imaginatively derived from Cascina Mascherpa, an unspecified farmhouse located or located in the Lower Po Valley on the border between the provinces of Milan and Pavia. The name, on the other hand, derives from the old Lombard expression maybe or mascarpa (etymology uncertain). The aforementioned Pantaleone da Confienza (1477) tells us that “Recocta (…) apud Ytalicos appellatur mascarpa“. Today, there is the etymological proposal that would bring the term mascharpa, from which mascarpone, a “Manus karpe-“, And therefore for a manual treatment of milk and its derivatives.


Giuncata is a soft fresh sheep’s or cow’s milk cheese, cylindrical or fusiform, derived from the mold in which the curd is inserted.

Giovanni Ballarini, from 1953 to 2003 he was Professor at the University of Parma, where he is Professor Emeritus. Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Athens (1996), gold medal for the merits of school, culture and art from the Ministry of Education of the Italian Republic, was awardedOrder of Merit TOgricules of the French Republic. Scanno Award – University of Teramo for Food in 2005, Giovanni Rebora Award 2014, Baldassarre Molossi Award Kitchen Stand 2014, Grand Prix de la Culture Gastrornomique 2016 afBCtodémie Internationale de la Gastrononie.

Alone and in collaboration with several students, several of whom hold university chairs, he has conducted intense scientific research in several areas and achieved important and original results, documented by over nine hundred publications and various books.

For thirty years his research has focused on history, anthropology and especially food anthropology, and also with the pseudonym John B. Dancer he has published over four hundred articles and fifty books, performed an intense dissemination activity, collaborated with magazines Italian newspapers, national newspapers and participation in TV broadcasts. Member of several scientific academies, he is honorary president of the Italian Cuisine Academy and former vice president of BCtodémie Internationale de la Gastrononie.

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